PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Found in Treated Water in West Des Moines


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | December 30, 2021

Chemicals known as PFAS, commonly called “forever chemicals”, were found in treated drinking water that goes to homes, businesses and schools in parts of West Des Moines. The contamination was discovered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. 

The DNR is testing water in at least 59 cities at their sources and after treatment for human consumption. West Des Moines, the sixth-largest city in the state, was the only city to have detectable levels of two prominent PFAS in its treated drinking water, according to early results obtained by Iowa Capital Dispatch. 

Based on the recent DNR test results, at least three of West Des Moines Water Works’ groundwater wells have the two most-studied PFAS,  perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS). It’s unclear why the wells have the chemicals.

The chemicals have been commonly used in nonstick cookware and stain-resistant clothes and furniture. Groundwater contaminations in Iowa have been previously identified near airports, which have used firefighting foams that have the chemicals. To learn more about PFAS more generally, click here. 

Concerns about the chemicals have grown in recent years because researchers have shown they can cause cancers and are widely distributed in the environment. The vast majority of people in the United States are believed to have detectable amounts of PFAS chemicals in their bodies. 

Iowa City passes Iowa DNR drinking water analysis


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 29, 2021

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found negligible amounts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl, commonly known as PFAS, in Iowa City’s drinking water.

The department released their findings on Wednesday. The tests were conducted following the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory regarding two PFAS: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. If the two chemicals combined to have a concentration of 70 parts per trillion, it would exceed the EPA’s health advisory. According to a City of Iowa City release, the Iowa DNR did not detect either chemical in Iowa City’s samples.

While looking for other PFAS, Perfluorobutanoic acid was detected in Iowa City’s drinking water at 3 parts per trillion. In the release, Water Superintendent for Iowa City Jonathan Durst said the results were low and expected.

“The City will continue to work with the Iowa DNR to monitor PFAS and conduct additional on-site testing,” he said. “We are committed to providing the highest quality drinking water to our community.”

This water analysis came a month after Iowa City was found to have high levels of zinc in its water. The city reduced its daily zinc intake in early November.

Tougher vehicle emissions requirements finalized by EPA


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 28, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized tougher vehicle emissions requirements, reversing former President Donald Trump-era policies.

The new requirements shift the country to look towards electric vehicles and reducing pollution significantly over the next five years. The rules will decrease carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle by 3.1 billion tons through 2050, according to Reuters. The EPA’s guidelines coincide with the goals of President Joe Biden’s administration. Biden wants to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road in the U.S. to around 50 percent by 2030. He also has been pushing for stricter fuel efficiency standards, like former President Barack Obama did in the early 2010s.

In 2020, Trump rolled back Obama’s efficiency standards by 3.5 percent. The switch made is so vehicles in the U.S. only had to average 40.4 miles per gallon rather than nearly 47 miles per gallon by 2026 under Obama’s regulations.

The new EPA standards will take effect in the 2023 model year. The Alliances for Automotive Innovation, an auto trade association, said the new requirements will result in an increase in electrical vehicles and incentives from the government for consumers to switch to purchasing those cars. When announcing the finalization, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the standards were “doable” even if they are tough. He said he wants to move ahead to the next round of requirements soon.

“We are setting robust and rigorous standards that will aggressively reduce the pollution that is harming people and our planet,” Regan said.

2022 Predicted to be Warm, but a La Niña will Help with Cooling


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | December 27, 2021

Next year will be one of the hottest on record, with average global temperatures about 1.96 degrees Fahrenheit over pre-industrial averages, U.K. government researchers said Tuesday.

The prediction was part of an annual forecast by the Met Office, the U.K.’s national weather service. The forecast results show that greenhouse gases are warming the globe at a growing rate, said the Met Office’s head of long range prediction, Adam Scaife. The forecast is calculated based on “key drivers” of global climate, but doesn’t include unanticipated events.

Though 2022 may be 1.96 degrees over 1850-1900 averages, it’s still expected to be cooler than January-September 2021, when the temperature was elevated 2 degrees, or 2020, when it was elevated 2.14 degrees. This is due mainly to the “La Niña” weather phenomenon, which has a temporary cooling effect, Scaife said. 

Met Office scientist, Dr Nick Dunstone said: “Global temperature has been slightly suppressed during 2021 because of the cooling influence of La Niña in the tropical Pacific. With another La Niña now underway, making this a so-called ‘double-dip’ La Niña, it is not surprising that we are forecasting another relatively cool year for global temperatures when compared with the run of years since 2015”. 

Sustainable tips for the holidays


Via the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 24, 2021

As the holidays approach, there are many ways to prevent waste and remain sustainable when it comes to gift giving this season.

According to Stanford University waste increases in the United States by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This totals to nearly 25 million additional tons of garbage a year. Waste can be reduced significantly by reusing gift wrap, like ribbons and twine, as well as using old magazines, newspapers, or maps as wrapping paper. Holiday cards can be sent on recycled paper or via email to reduce waste as well.

Stanford also suggests buying recyclable wrapping paper and actually recycling it. Paper can also be reused for more than one wrap if it isn’t destroyed in the process of opening.

The University of Iowa’s Office of Sustainability also came out with a list of local, sustainable gift giving options from Iowa City businesses. From cafes and restaurants to local shops, the list has options for all ages this holiday season and throughout the year. The list also encourages people to buy last minute gifts from sustainable, local businesses instead of large shopping malls.

As the New Year approaches, making Green Resolutions can improve one’s interactions with their environment. Whether it’s focusing on recycling or reducing your carbon footprint by carpooling or taking public transportation more often, Green resolutions can help people live more sustainably.

Disaster Cleanup from Last Weeks Storms will be Expensive and Time Consuming


Josie Taylor | December 23, 2021

Communities across the U.S. Southeast and Midwest will be assessing damage from the tornado outbreak on Dec. 10-11, 2021 for some time. It’s clear that the cleanups will take months, possibly years, and will cost a lot of money. 

Dealing with mass amounts of debris and waste materials is one of the most significant challenges for communities in the wake of natural disasters. Often this task overwhelms local waste managers, leaving waste untouched for weeks, months and even years. 

Climate-related disasters like floods, landslides, storms, wildfires and extreme hot and cold waves afflict millions of people around the world. These events have been increasing over time, particularly over the past several decades. There has also been an increase in loss from natural disasters. 

Disasters, like tornadoes, commonly produce thousands to millions of tons of debris in a single event. For example, waste can include vegetation, such as trees and shrubs; municipal solid waste, such as household garbage; construction and demolition materials; vehicles; and household hazardous materials, including paints, cleaning agents, pesticides and pool chemicals.

Des Moines Water Works votes to further discuss collectively governing water in the metro


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 22, 2021

The Des Moines Water Works board of trustees voted to further negotiate collectively governing drinking water production within the metro on Tuesday.

In a unanimous vote, the board plans to negotiate an agreement with other water utilities surrounding Des Moines, establishing a Central Iowa Water Works. While the vote doesn’t officially confirm Des Moines’s participation in the potential new, joint utility, but it does push the discussion forward according to Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Des Moines isn’t the only utility to contemplating further discussing a joint utility. West Des Moines Water Works and the Urbandale Water Utility are both set to vote on the topic in January. Regardless of how the two vote, the water utilities are not likely to decide on an agreement quickly. It’s likely the soonest Iowan’s could see a signed agreement and a Central Iowa Water Works is 2023. The idea of a regional utility for water has been in the works for four years.

The Des Moines board told residents there will be more public meetings for them to voice their concerns before any final decisions are made regarding the agreement.

Arizona Senator is Considering the Environmental Rights Amendment


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | December 20, 2021

Arizona state Sen. Juan Mendez was writing a bill to strengthen water protections in Arizona when he learned about a legal idea that he now believes could provide even stronger and broader protections for the environment. 

The idea came from Maya van Rossum, a lawyer and environmental activist whose organization successfully brought down a pro-fracking law in 2013 using a seldom used “environmental rights amendment” in Pennsylvania’s constitution. The amendment is part of the state’s bill of rights and says the people have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the environment. 

Mendez now wants to amend Arizona’s constitution to recognize the right to a “clean and healthy” environment. The amendment is only three sentences, but would effectively put environmental rights on par with free speech, freedom of religion and gun rights in the state. 

The right to a healthy environment is a concept some government bodies across the world have been considering recently. 

Currently, New York, Pennsylvania and Montana have the environmental rights amendment. 

Superfund sites to see cleanup with funds from infrastructure bill


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | December 17, 2021

49 Superfund sites across the U.S. will see clean-up efforts after the passing of a $1 billion bipartisan infrastructure law.

Superfund sites are polluted areas with hazardous waste all over the country. The locations are designated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. There are sites in 24 states and Puerto Rico. The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would start clearing out a backlog of the contaminated sides after the passing of the infrastructure plan. The bill set aside $3.5 billion for environmental cleanup according to NBC News. This round is only the first installation of funds to clean up the sites, beginning with $1 billion.

The sites are disproportionately found in lower income communities where people of color live. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said one in four Black and Hispanic Americans live within three miles of a site. According to The Hill, this funding will go to almost 50 different sites in the U.S. to begin projects to better understand and clean up the hazardous waste. The project will only begin to chip away at the long backlog of Superfund sites that need cleaned up.

Severe Weather in Iowa and Across the Midwest Wednesday Night


Trees down in Iowa in August 2020

Josie Taylor | December 16, 2021

There were Tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings throughout the afternoon and evening across the Plains Wednesday. Twisters in Iowa, fires in Kansas and damage across the region has been reported today. 

There were 118 severe thunderstorms and 71 tornado warnings across Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa Wednesday night, the National Weather Service said. 

In Iowa, the weather caused power outages, severe damage and at least one death. Iowa State Patrol troopers say a tractor-trailer was blown over in the wind around 8:30 p.m. killing at least one person. 

There were more than a dozen tornadoes reported in Iowa, with most seen in the western part of the state. Confirmation of tornadoes and damage assessments will be available in the coming days, said Allan Curtis of the National Weather Service.

Des Moines recorded a 74 mph wind gust at the airport at 8:28 p.m. Wednesday. This was the strongest gust not associated with a thunderstorm seen in Des Moines since 1970, the National Weather Service reported on Twitter.

Accurate damage assessment may take days to confirm, but we know that there are many trees down across Iowa, homes have been damaged and some Iowans are still without power today.